Apple iPod Hits 5 Years Old

On Oct. 23, 2001, Apple Computer released its first-generation iPod to the masses, according to Macworld.co.uk, sparking a musical, cultural and technological revolution matched by the introduction of very few products in history.

The Apple iPod has contributed immensely toward the revival of the struggling music industry while simultaneously making it easier for fans to learn about and access songs from established and up-and-coming artists.

On that autumn day five years ago, the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm debuted a 5GB iPod—which was a bit larger than a deck of cards and weighed about 6 ounces—and it touted the slogan, “a thousand songs in your pocket,” according to Macworld.co.uk.

At the time, Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive, predicted that the company had come up with a product that would forever change the music industry landscape.

Apple’s most recent lineup of iPods: the iPod video, iPod nano and iPod shuffle
New Apple iPods

“With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go,” he said, according to Macworld.co.uk. “With iPod, listening to music will never be the same.”

And as it turns out, Jobs wasn’t far off in his observation. But it took some time for the rest of the world to catch on.

MP3 players weren’t brand new to the music technology scene in 2001, as Macworld.co.uk points out in its post, but most were considered to be relatively low-quality, with small storage capacities, crawling file-transfer rates and awkward manager software.

Apple shocked the space with its iPod because it was so compact and sleek looking, it packed 5GB of storage capacity, and it worked comparatively smoothly with the iTunes software, Macworld.co.uk reports. The first-gen iPod also boasted transfer rates that were much faster than additional MP3 player offerings on the market due to the use of a FireWire to transfer content, as opposed to the USB 1.1 connection employed by many other players, according to Macworld.co.uk.

Three particular trends that resulted from the iPod’s introduction noted in the Macworld.co.uk article are as follows:

iPod jacking: In a phenomenon first noticed in New York, early iPod users would sometimes swap their earbuds with each other to share music and their interests in the new device.

The emergence of iPod bars: Social sites such as bars and clubs also starting popping up in New York shortly after the iPod’s debut where users would bring their own devices to be plugged into community sound systems and shared with other interested parties.

Podcasting: Perhaps the most widespread trend to come of the iPod’s release, the term “podcast” has come to represent any digital audio clip—such as a radio snippet or Web broadcast—that can be played on MP3 players.

Podcasting in particular has permeated a huge area of the Web’s digital landscape, with most media sites currently offering audio recordings of some content via podcast. (CIO.com offers many forms of podcasts, including a daily news offering as well as recordings of selected print content.)

Second generation iPod nanos
2nd-Gen iPod nanos

As Macworld.co.uk puts it, Apple came into the digital music player space in 2001 with a product that offered “advanced technology for people who don’t care about technology.” From the beginning, much of the iPod’s appeal—and Apple Computer’s draw—is its mass perception as a “cool” product. The company initially offered its iPod mini—later replaced by the nano—in a number of colors, and it eventually contracted such artists as U2 and more recently, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, to endorse the devices.

In April 2003, Apple took the music revolution a step further with the introduction of its iTunes Music Store, according to Macworld.co.uk—now named the iTunes Store, as it sells more than music—offering a legal Web music service with a large catalog and a simple-to-navigate interface, all for a reasonable price. (At first, iTunes was open only to Mac users in the United States, according to Macworld.co.uk.)

In the fall of 2003, Apple opened its iPods and iTunes service to Windows users, and since that time it has sold the majority of the devices to such users, according to Macworld.co.uk.

Since the launch of the iTunes store in 2003, the firm has sold more than a billion songs via download, Macworld.co.uk reports, not to mention countless TV shows, and now films from studios like Walt Disney. Apple to date has also sold some 60 million iPods, bringing in roughly $59.9 billion in market capital for the company, according to Macworld.co.uk.

Macworld.co.uk also recently spoke with Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak on his impression of the iPod and why it has taken the digital music space by storm.

“Woz,” who owns a third-generation, “touch-wheel” iPod, told Macworld.co.uk that he sees the computer as the real music device, and the iPod as a means of communicating that music.

“The iPod was predated by the personal computer as the music device,” he told Macworld.co.uk. “That’s how people have come to see it: ‘The computer is my music device; the iPod is the satellite of it.’ That’s why the iPod has been such a success.”

Though it took a half-decade, software giant Microsoft in November will make its first major move into the space owned by Apple with the launch of its Zune digital media player. A 30GB version of Zune is expected to sell for $250—the same price Apple charges for its 30GB video iPod—and its Zune marketplace will offer songs for the same price as iTunes: $1.

A person cannot walk a mile down a city street today without seeing Apple’s ever-so-recognizable white earbuds—as well as some cleverly placed Apple advertising—and whether you fancy an old-fashioned Walkman, CD player or the uber-popular iPod, you’ve got to give Apple credit for its vision and insight into the market.

For that, we bid the Apple iPod a happy fifth birthday.

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